McKnight’s Senior Living Article: Horsing Around Soon

June 7, 2023

By: Foster Stubbs

Read article on McKnight’s Senior Living

The Hacienda Mission San Luis Rey staff and residents spend time with horses at Ivey Park Ranch Association. (Photo courtesy of Hacienda Mission San Luis Rey.)


When The Hacienda Mission San Luis Rey opens in September, residents will have plenty of opportunities to horse around thanks to a partnership with Ivey Ranch Park Association, an equine nonprofit that provides recreational and educational programs for individuals of all ages with and without special needs.

“We promised to sponsor two horses from the ranch, and there will be a program that offers not only interaction as a therapy but volunteer opportunities as well,” said Mariano Perez, executive director of The Hacienda Mission San Luis Rey, one of Watermark Retirement Communities’ locations in Oceanside, CA. “I think that it gives them the possibility of that freedom and makes it easier to be of service.”

With the organizations located on neighboring properties, the partnership arose naturally. Ivey Ranch Park Association has been a fixture in the community for a long time, according to its executive director, Tonya Danielly.

“We’ve been here since 1981 and 20 years ago, in 2003, the equestrian program started,” Danielly said. “It started with one horse and two brave riders from our care program and then grew from there. Now we have 26 horses, and we see just about 200 clients a week in that program by itself.”

The collaboration is a match made in heaven, as many future residents rode horseback in their youth. At one point, the area was home to more than 8,000 head of horse stock. Although there are many types of therapy animals, horses are said to be unique in how human traits can be manifested in their actions.

“[Horses] physically replicate us humans as close to our physical gaits as possible so literally their movement recreates what we do as humans walking prone. That side to side and sway is the same thing that you will find on a horse,” Danielly said. “So if you are in a wheelchair or utilizing a walker and you are put on top of a horse, it is actually firing the same systems as if you were doing it yourself. They are really mirrors to our own well-being, and then we can talk through that with people and really get them to understand in another live being what’s going on with themselves.”

Although there still are a few months until the Hacienda opens, Perez already is excited about the partnership’s potential for his residents and the community at large.

“At the end of the day, the connection with others is so important, especially those that are suffering from some form of memory impairment or some physical disability,” Perez said. “It’s so rewarding that they get to experience that as well that love and connection. It’s just amazing.”

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